"Is The Preacher The Pastor?"
by David Paden
A common practice in the religious world today is to refer to the minister or preacher of the congregation as a "pastor." Is this practice in accordance with Bible teaching? Let's begin by noticing that the Bible makes a distinction between a minister and a pastor. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). Notice if you will the different groups mentioned in this passage (Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers) Notice also, that this passage clearly makes a distinction between those who are "evangelists" and those who are "pastors." Not only is there a distinction in the words, but there is also a distinction in the meaning of the words. The word "evangelist" comes from a word which means a bringer of good tidings, whereas the word "pastor" means shepherd or presiding officer. According to the Bible, a pastor is an "elder," a "shepherd," or a "bishop." Listen to the words of Jeremiah. "Woe be unto the pastorsthat destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith theLord." (Jer. 23:1-2). Consider the responsibility of the "pastors" in this passage. They were to watch over the sheep, which represent God's people. Now turn your attention with me to a New Testament passage. "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the eldersof the church." (Acts 20:17) Who did Paul call together? It was the elders of the church. What did he say to these elders? "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28) The responsibility of the elders is the same as the responsibility of the pastors. What can be learned from this comparison? The elders and pastors are not different offices, but one in the same.
Another interesting thing about the office or a "pastor" is that you never see an individual pastor serving over a congregation. According to the Bible, there is always a plurality of elders serving over congregations. Paul called for the "elders" of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17). "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee." (Tit. 1:5) What does this teach? There must be a plurality of "pastors" or "elders" in a local church. No one man can be identified as the sole "pastor" of a church. There must be a plurality.
Finally, consider also, there is not one example in the Bible of a minster referring to himself as a "pastor" in the sense that preachers are referred to as pastors today. Paul was a minister of the gospel of Christ (Col. 1:23). Never once does he ever refer to himself as a pastor. Why not? Paul clearly understood there was a difference between pastors and preachers and though he was a minister, he was not a pastor. The only minister in the Bible who is also identified as a pastor was Peter (1 Pet. 5:1). Peter was both a minister and a pastor. Therefore, a preacher can serve as one of the "pastors" or "elders" of the church, if he meets the qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Can a preacher be the sole "pastor" or "elder" of a church? He cannot if he desires to follow New Testament teachings.